Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission
Annual Public Hearing
Aug. 22, 2007Commission Hearing Room
Texas Parks & Wildlife Department Headquarters Complex
4200 Smith School Road
Austin, TX 78744
BE IT REMEMBERED, that heretofore on the 22nd day of August, 2007, there came to be heard matters under the regulatory authority of the Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission in the Commission Hearing Room of the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department Headquarters Complex, to wit:
THE TEXAS PARKS AND WILDLIFE COMMISSION:
- Peter M. Holt, San Antonio, Texas, Chairman
- Mark E. Bivins, Amarillo, Texas, Chairman
- J. Robert Brown, El Paso, Texas
- Antonio Falcon, MD, Rio Grande City, Texas
- T. Dan Friedkin, Houston, Texas
- Karen J. Hixon, San Antonio, Texas
- Margaret Martin, Boerne, Texas
- Philip Montgomery, Dallas, Texas
- John D. Parker, Lufkin, Texas
THE TEXAS PARKS AND WILDLIFE DEPARTMENT:
- Robert L. Cook, Executive Director, and other personnel of the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department
|Name/Organization Address||Matter of Interest|
|David Braun, Texas Teaming with Wildlife Coalition, P.O. Box 466, Dripping Springs, TX 78620||None listed|
|Renea Hicks, Representing John Boerschig, 101 W. 6th Street, Suite 504, Austin, TX 78701||Presidio County Road issues concerning Big Bend Ranch State Park|
|Dewayne Hollin, Texas Sea Grant, 2700 Earl Rudder Freeway, Suite 1800, College Station, TX 77845||Clean Texas Boater Program partnership with TPWD|
|Kirby Brown, Texas Wildlife Association, 2519 Summit Ridge Drive, San Marcos, TX 78666||Wildlife|
|Jim Haire, 5801 Regents Row, Tyler, TX 75703||Boating safety|
|Devin Hernandez, Texas Youth Hunters, 920 Timber Trail, Cedar Park, TX 78613||Texas Youth Hunting program|
|Brandon Hernandez, Texas Youth Hunting program, 920 Timber Trail, Cedar Park, TX 78613||Texas Youth Hunting program|
|Nathan Tinsley, Texas Youth Hunting, Houston, TX||Youth Hunt|
|Sarah Coffey, South Texas Buckskin Brigade, 536 Suncrest Drive, New Braunfels, TX 78132||Texas Brigades|
|Colin Graff, Brigade Camps, 545 RR 4420, Hondo, TX 78861||Importance of habitat for quail, my camp experiences|
|Walter Schelle, Kingfisher Guide Service, P.O. Box 520, 1101 Lewis Street, Matagorda, TX 77457||Fishing concerns|
|Chris Ramsey, 138 Daffodil Street, Lake Jackson, TX 77566||East Matagorda trout limits/ecosystem|
|Bill Pustejovsky, Gold Tip Guide Service, P.O. Box 370, Matagorda, TX 77457||Croaker fishing in east Matagorda Bay|
|Parc Smith, American YouthWorks — Environmental Corps, 216 E. 4th Street, Austin, TX 78701||Environmental Corps/AmeriCorps program building trails and maintaining state parks|
|Jim West, P.O. Box 224, Port Bolivar, TX 77650||Hunting and fishing|
|Joe Turner, Houston Parks and Recreation Depart., 2999 S. Wayside, Houston, TX 77339||Partnerships|
|Beth McDonald, Texans for State Parks, 4409 Gaines Ranch Loop #440, Austin, TX 78735||Park land acquisition|
|Will Kirkpatrick, Freshwater Bass Anglers, Rt. 1, Box 138 DC, Broaddus, TX 75929||Freshwater|
|Charles Shofner, Jr., Jasper County, Rt. 7, Box 300, Jasper, TX 75951||East Texas fish hatchery, Jasper County|
|Steve Holzheauser, 1911 Sea Eagle View, Austin, TX 78738||Public boat ramps|
|Judi Ronkartz, Austin Ridge Riders Mountain Bike Club, P.O. Box 300014, Austin, TX 78703||TPWD — mountain bike trails|
|Janice Bezanson, Texas Conservation Alliance, 3532 Bee Cave Road #110, Austin, TX 78746||Wildlife and habitat|
|Thomas Hall, CBGA, P.O. Box 1571, Aransas Pass, TX 78335||Guide license|
P R O C E E D I N G S
COMMISSIONER HOLT: Good afternoon, everybody. This meeting is called to order. Before proceeding with any business, oh, I'll bet I'm rushing Mr. Cook over there. Sorry.
MR. COOK: I'm getting to the right page.
COMMISSIONER HOLT: Oh, that's fine.
MR. COOK: Thank you, Mr. Chairman, Commissioners. A public notice of this meeting containing all items on the proposed agenda has been filed with the Office of the Secretary of State, as required by Chapter 551 of the Government Code, referred to as the Open Meetings Act. I would like for that fact to be noted in the official record of this meeting.
For the audience here today, I'd like to go over right quickly just some basic ground rules that I would request that you assist us in getting through the meeting. As you can see, we've got a good turnout, and we like that and appreciate that. And if you'll help me by following these rules it would be ‑‑ I would be appreciative.
An individual wishing to speak before the Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission must first fill out and sign a speaker registration form which is available out here at the table. The Chairman is in charge of this meeting, and by law it is his duty to preserve order, direct the order of the hearing and recognize persons to be heard.
We have sign-up forms for everyone wishing to speak, and the Chairman will call names from those forms one at a time. Each person will be allowed to speak from the podium, here up front, one at a time.
When your name is called please come to the podium, state your name and whom you represent if anyone other than yourself, and we'll also — the Chairman will probably call an on-deck person; you know, whoever is coming up next, be ready.
Then tell us which issue or issues you want to talk about, state your position on the issue, add supporting facts that will help the Commission understand your concerns. Please limit your remarks to issues within the jurisdiction of the Commission.
Each person who wants to address the Commission will have three minutes to speak. I will keep track of that time using a little stoplight device that we have here; this thing goes from green to orange with about 30 seconds left, and red when your three minutes is up, and you've got the same little lights and buttons on the podium there.
So if we ask questions, if the Commission — if you get into a discussion it won't be counting it against your time, but just to kind of help move the meeting along we will follow that time limit, please.
Statements that are merely argumentative or critical of others will not be tolerated. There is a microphone at the podium, so it is not necessary to raise your voice. I request that you show proper respect for the Commissioners, as well as the other members of the audience. You will not be recognized out of turn by raising your hand or interrupting others.
Disruptive or offensive behavior will be grounds for immediate ejection from the meeting, and possible arrest and criminal prosecution. I respectfully request that you silence or turn off your cell phone and pager, so you will not disrupt the meeting or those speaking.
If you want to submit written materials to the Commission, please give them to Carole Hemby or Michelle Klaus here on my right, and they will pass those materials to the Commission.
COMMISSIONER HOLT: Thank you, Bob.
First I'd just quickly like to introduce ‑‑ we have three new Commissioners, Karen Hixon, Margaret Martin and Dr. Antonio Falcon, welcome. Welcome to the Commission.
And also we have Representative Charlie Geren here. Charlie, would you like to say a couple of words? He's been a great supporter of Texas Parks and Wildlife.
REP. GEREN: Thank you, Mr. Chairman and members, and thank you for your service to the State. If you don't mind I'd like to take just a half a minute to ‑‑ I know this is Mr. Cook's last meeting and I just want to thank him for his incredible service to the State of Texas, his friendship, and his service to — and he's been through some pretty tough sessions in front of the Legislature, and he's always maintained the highest regard for the Legislature, but he's represented this Agency well over the 31 years he's served it. And I want to thank him for his service, and that's really the reason I'm here today. But thank you all very much for allowing me to speak.
COMMISSIONER HOLT: Charlie, thank you very much. We appreciate it. Yes, you guys are a little rough on him over there, I notice every once in a while.
REP. GEREN: I try not to be, sir, but if it weren't for Bob I don't believe we'd be having the Eagle Mountain Park opening next year ‑‑
COMMISSIONER HOLT: Exactly.
REP. GEREN: — to the public, and thank you all for your help on that, and we're very excited about it.
COMMISSIONER HOLT: Well, thank you for being a big part of that ‑‑
REP. GEREN: Yes.
COMMISSIONER HOLT: ‑‑ and taking the lead on it, because that's the kind of precedent we want to set hopefully going forward. If there's those opportunities for communities in urban areas particularly, so — thanks.
COMMISSIONER HOLT: Thank you all. Thank you for your time today.
COMMISSIONER HOLT: Thank you. Yes.
MR. COOK: Thank you, Mr. Geren.
COMMISSIONER HOLT: Okay. Why don't we get started. David Braun is up first, and Renea Hicks will be on call.
MR. BRAUN: Thank you, Mr. Holt. Appreciate it. Good to see you ‑‑
COMMISSIONER HOLT: Good to see you.
MR. BRAUN: — and I also want to welcome the new Commissioners and look forward to working with all of you. And my thanks to Bob Cook for many years of great service and the opportunity to work with you.
My name again is David Braun. I own a law firm that does nothing but represent the owners of rural land. We have four lawyers who help landowners all over the state who are conservation-minded landowners.
I also own Plateau Land and Wildlife Consulting Firm ‑‑ I'm too tall; sorry (adjusting microphone). And Plateau is an ecological consulting company. We have about 1500 landowners that own 400,000 acres of conservation land in Texas, and all we do is help private landowners be better stewards of their land.
I'm here today to talk about the Texas Teaming with Wildlife Coalition. About a year and a half ago, Bob asked me to set up a new coalition to support wildlife funding for the Agency. And so I dove into this project, and found out that we are one of the few states that didn't have an arm, a nonprofit arm that was out lobbying for support of the Agency.
So we formed the Texas Wildlife ‑‑ the Teaming with Wildlife Coalition of Texas, and we're affiliated with the national Teaming with Wildlife Coalition. There's a little paper in the front of your handout that describes the Teaming with Wildlife Coalition. We're also affiliated with the International Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies.
And our group has grown very rapidly, in just 18 months we have a list of almost 100 organizations, from sportsmen's groups to wildlife conservation groups, to tourism organizations, anyone in the State that benefits from our wildlife. And we're finding people across the State all very receptive to joining the Coalition and supporting Parks and Wildlife's programs.
Now, our first priority was to — secure funding for the State Wildlife Grants. I won't go into a lot of detail; there's a four-page handout at the end of your packet about the State Wildlife Grants. But basically it's a program funded by — with federal dollars, to support a wildlife plan ‑‑ implementing the State Wildlife Plan here in Texas.
And the staff has done a marvelous job putting together the State Wildlife Plan, and for the last two years we've secured about $3-1/2 million each year to fund the implementation of the plan. That's free federal dollars coming to support the Agency.
We think we can do much better. And we're going to keep growing and expanding that. But the State Wildlife Grants Program is the only program in the State that targets nongame and non-endangered species, and the effort is to keep animals off the endangered species list. Address their problems before they get in trouble.
So this is a proactive program, it stresses people using wildlife, appreciating wildlife, and the economic benefits that go with wildlife.
So for two years we've taken a group to Congress; we've met with every member of the Texas delegation. And they've all — we've begun to build a support base there in Congress.
In the future we're going to grow the Coalition. We hope to have many hundreds of groups supporting the Agency, and we want to support all kinds of funding, both state and federal, for wildlife programs. Thank you very much.
COMMISSIONER HOLT: David, thank you.
Any questions for David?
COMMISSIONER HOLT: David, thank you for staying so active.
MR. BRAUN: Appreciate it.
COMMISSIONER HOLT: Appreciate it — for the conservation. Thank you.
Renea Hicks. Renea, am I saying that correctly?
MR. HICKS: Yes, you are. Thank you.
COMMISSIONER HOLT: Good, Okay.
MR. HICKS: My parents didn't know how to spell, so they stuck an "A" ‑‑
COMMISSIONER HOLT: And up will be Dewayne Hollin. After ‑‑
MR. HICKS: I am Renea Hicks. I'm an attorney here in Austin. I've got a handout that I'm asking be passed along to you that might help orient you. This is a map ‑‑ I'm here on behalf of John Boerschig. He is a rancher, owns about — somewhere around a 22,000 acre ranch out in Presidio County, not too far from the northwestern neck of the Big Bend Ranch State Park. And I'm here to talk about a public roads issue that has ‑‑ that you all are probably going to hear about, your staff is quite aware of it, I believe, that I want to just introduce you to, and then I just want you to take away, in case that red light comes on, and David ate up any of my time —
I just want you to take away from this that the main point I have for you today is, don't rush to judgment, there's a lot to think about here that we think hasn't been thought about yet. Now, let me orient you a little bit.
First of all I want to say, Mr. Boerschig supports public access to this particular neck of the Big Bend Ranch State Park. What you're seeing there on the map in the front is the northwestern edge of the park. And if you see a little dotted line there, that is Mr. Boerschig's ranch, in between his ranch and the park is property owned primarily by Mr. John Poindexter who has a big resort facility out there.
We think that enough attention has not been given to the possible alternatives to the one your staff has begun to focus on. If you look at the red line there, those are the current public roads — by the way, the top end is the north end. Those are the current public roads into the park. The blue line that you see up near the top is the one that cuts across Mr. Boerschig's land; in fact it cuts it in half, it is the one that the staff of your Agency is recommending right now; it would require Mr. Boerschig to reorient everything on his ranch: his fences, pastures, watering facilities, hunting facilities ‑‑ everything would have to be redone.
I'm sorry for talking so fast but I want to make sure I get my time in. This same road has been the subject of a lawsuit battle between Mr. Poindexter and Mr. Boerschig for several years. I think it's supposed to go to trial ‑‑ I'm not representing him in that matter but I think it's supposed to go to trial sometime in the fall.
It is — this whole issue is complicated by that lawsuit, and in fact it's sticking the Agency in in a way that I don't think is too comfortable for anybody in that.
The yellow line: Very important, it's called the Sublio Creek Road. It is the road that comes out of what's called the ghost town of Shafter; it has not been evaluated very much yet. We have looked at it; it makes some sense to look at.
It might be a teeny bit more expensive, but it has better access. I've been on that road; it is not ‑‑ unlike Mr. Boerschig's ranch, which has not maintained and hasn't been maintained by the county since 1986 and never has been public, this one, even though it isn't a public road at this point, is maintained by the county; there's a purple line there that you see in the middle. That's entirely inside the Park and would have access. It is more expensive; it's more complicated, but also would avoid any condemnation.
Your Agency, as you'll see in the attachment that's highlighted, has a policy against condemnation. At this point, essentially the Agency is supporting, by proxy, condemnation at the county level. Our basic point is, please take a chance, take a step to evaluate this, take a deep breath, and let's everybody look at the alternatives more. This is going to be around for a while, and there's time to look at it. Thank you.
COMMISSIONER HOLT: Thank you, Mr. Hicks. I'm somewhat aware of it, a new chairman getting involved. But in ‑‑ I think right now you used the term "proxy." I just want to be a little careful. The county is the one that's very involved in this, and obviously we have interests, certainly. But right now I think it's more of a county issue, at least from our point of view.
MR. HICKS: My — right. My only point was, the staff had expressly written a letter supporting the condemnation efforts of the county.
COMMISSIONER HOLT: Oh.
MR. HICKS: Thank you.
COMMISSIONER HOLT: Thank you.
COMMISSIONER BIVINS: One question ‑‑
COMMISSIONER HOLT: Any other questions ‑‑ yes.
COMMISSIONER BIVINS: — is the star ‑‑ is that Shafter?
MR. HICKS: Yes.
COMMISSIONER BIVINS: Okay. Thank you.
MR. HICKS: That's Shafter.
COMMISSIONER BIVINS: Okay. Good.
COMMISSIONER HOLT: Thank you. Dewayne Hollin, and Kirby Brown up next after Dewayne.
MR. HOLLIN: Thank you very much. I'm Dewayne Hollin with the Texas Sea Grant Program, part of Texas A&M University. I'm here as a representative of the Clean Texas Marina and the Clean Texas Boater Program, a statewide program. And I'm here basically to introduce you to a partnership that's been formed between Texas Parks and Wildlife and the Texas Sea Grant Program, to carry out clean boater, environmental education efforts, and under this Clean Texas Boater Program, clean boating is good for Texas waters, and Texans like boating and marine recreation on clean coastal and inland waters.
Protecting and preserving clean Texas waterways and maintaining water quality is up to each of us, and by adopting and teaching pollution prevention measures, the Clean Texas boater can take advantage and take satisfaction in knowing they are doing their part to preserve the clean Texas waterways.
The Clean Texas Boater Program, recognizing in boaters participating with clean marinas for doing their part in keeping Texas waterways clean. We have about 5,000 pledges already in this program. The Clean Boater Program is the most important part of our environmental education effort, carried out by a joint project between Texas Parks and Wildlife, Texas Sea Grant, the Marina Association of Texas. And these programs are voluntary, and each provides participants with resources needed to minimize pollution in Texas waterways.
The boaters participating in the program receive a Clean Boater sticker which they can put on their boat, which recognizes them for the efforts that they're doing; it also provides guidelines in the program that can ensure that the pollution prevention measures are carried out by the boater, and the passengers in the boat.
The goal of the program is to prevent pollution by making marinas, boatyards and boaters more aware of environmental laws, rules and jurisdictions, and encouraging marinas following best-management practices to be designated and certified as Clean Texas Marinas.
We have over 350 marinas, and the packet I've given you has documentation on a lot of the resources of those people, and we have about a third of those already signed up and part of the certification process.
Texas Parks and Wildlife has been crucial to the success of funding grants through the Clean Vessel Act to create many of these educational materials, and I've brought some signs today but I thought they were too big to bring in here, so I didn't bring them in.
But I'd like to thank the Commission and the Agency, and particularly Andy Goldblum, who's managed the Boating Access Program for Parks and Wildlife for a number of years, for continued support of the program. Thank you very much.
COMMISSIONER HOLT: Dewayne, thank you for your work.
Another place, focusing on that.
Kirby Brown, and Jim Haire after Kirby.
MR. BROWN: Mr. Chairman, Commissioners. Thank you very much for allowing me to be here. My name is Kirby Brown, I'm with Texas Wildlife Association, and for those of you who don't know us, TWA is a wildlife conservation organization whose members are made up of landowners,
wildlife managers, hunters and conservationists that own or control over 35 million acres of land in Texas.
We want to congratulate you and Mr. Holt particularly, and the new Commissioners, congratulations for coming on. We're delighted to see you and looking forward to working with all of you. Good luck, Mr. Chairman.
Also, I want to thank you on behalf of TWA, not only the commissioners that are here but past commissioners, for your continued effort at looking at, and overseeing the efforts that are made by this Department, in the wildlife management on private lands, and hunting and our hunting heritage, and particularly with youth hunting programs; and also just overseeing a staff that's probably the most outstanding staff of biologists and professionals anywhere in North America.
And I had the opportunity to work here 25 years before I went to TWA five years ago, and I'll assure you it is an outstanding group, and I've met all of the others, and there's none better.
Also, I want to thank you, Mr. Chairman and former Chairman Fitzsimons, for your intense and tireless efforts at the Capitol, on behalf of all of us, and all of our issues, because I know how long you were down there and the days you had to make for it, even during parts of the playoffs, and that was really good to see, so ‑‑
COMMISSIONER HOLT: That was a sacrifice.
MR. BROWN: That was a sacrifice. There is no question ‑‑
COMMISSIONER HOLT: For the right reasons, though.
MR. BROWN: I also wear another hat, as chairman of the Texas Outdoor Partners, a loose coalition of hunting and fishing and conservation organizations in Texas that formed this year.
It turned out to be a pretty effective partnership. There are about 45 organizations as — that are part of that; each person chooses to sign on or not. It is a loose coalition, and it's worked very well in bringing all of our issues to the Legislature and really having them understand what our concerns are.
And so we were proud to be a part of that, and proud to help with Fund 9 getting on track, the State Park funding, the hatcheries getting funded, and Rider 27 providing flexibility ‑‑ some of the things that we worked on. And we look forward to working with you in the future through that partnership. We think that's a great group.
And finally, I can't leave without thanking my good friend and Executive Director Bob Cook, who I had the privilege to work with for many years, and under his leadership, the wildlife field in Texas has absolutely flourished, and the Department has done a tremendous job ‑‑ and for all of us —
MR. COOK: I'm going to give you a few more minutes ‑‑
MR. BROWN: Yes, okay. Okay — well I just —
MR. BROWN: I'm going to cut this off real fast, then.
MR. COOK: Thank you, Kirby.
MR. BROWN: No, all of us at TWA, Bob, as you know, and everyone in the sporting and conservation community just — we're going to miss you. We're going to miss your leadership. Thank you so much for what you've done.
MR. COOK: Thank you, sir.
MR. BROWN: And thank you, folks. Thank you.
COMMISSIONER HOLT: Thank you, Kirby. And every time Joe and I were walking the halls, well, there would be Kirby with us. He was a huge help on the park side, and that's the beauty of what I think this Department has done, is pull together conservation, parks, hunting interests, and everybody's focused on one thing, and that's conserving Texas and doing the best we can to serve our constituents.
And Kirby's a big part of that. Jim Haire, and then Devin Hernandez and I think a group of people in the Texas Youth Program.
MR. HAIRE: Thank you, Mr. Chairman, members.
COMMISSIONER HOLT: Yes, sir.
MR. HAIRE: I'm Jim Haire from Tyler and I'm a lifelong Texas fisherman, boater and hunter. I appreciate the chance to discuss Anheuser-Busch's involvement in the Department's safe boating efforts. I'm not anti-alcohol, by the way.
The Department adopted LCRA's Safe Boating Program this summer but made two unacceptable changes. First, the Department featured an Anheuser-Busch idea, that you can safely drink and boat by using a designated driver. However, this strategy actually increases the risk of death and injury, according to the Coast Guard, Johns Hopkins University, University of North Carolina, and the State of California who reports that over half of their alcohol-related boating fatalities are intoxicated passengers, most of which contribute to or cause their own deaths. I recently provided you with that documentation. The Department next added an Anheuser-Busch-sponsored singer as a celebrity spokesman, whose biggest hit song is about getting drunk before going fishing. The Coast Guard told the Department they would not be associated with that person.
All of this appears to be part of a pattern of Anheuser-Busch exerting its political influence over the Department at the public's expense. Ten examples of this are attached.
Another boating safety and beer problem at the Department is the use of the State's ShareLunker Program for the extensive promotion of Budweiser beer among boaters, while the Department remains silent on boating injuries and deaths.
The Department's decision not to report on boat crashes on our lakes may result from a previous safe boating skit featuring a drunk boater with slurred speech. Anheuser-Busch became very upset, saying this was insensitive to their beer customers. They flew down to Austin and became part of the Department's Safe Boating process.
If slurred speech in a skit could upset Anheuser-Busch beer customers this much, the Department would know not to report on actual alcohol injuries and deaths. Such reports could also lead people to ask why the Department's promoting beer in the first place, and that would also upset Anheuser-Busch.
For example, the Department repeated the Budweiser beer name 22 times in a May 14th press release, but 12 days later, the Department was silent when a 16-year-old Lufkin girl lost a leg to a drunk boater. The most extreme example of the Department's suppressing bad alcohol use was some years back, pardon me, when the Department kept Dallas boaters in the dark about the alcohol danger on Cedar Creek Lake.
There were three alcohol deaths on one weekend, including a six-year-old girl, in three separate boat crashes. The next week the Department churned out its regular batch of press releases, but was silent on the three alcohol deaths.
To sum up, the Department's new Safe Boating message clearly increases the risk of death and injury to the public. All of this, along with the pattern of this alcohol marketer's influence over the Department, shows it's in the public interest to get the Department separated from the beer business.
Thanks very much, be happy to answer any questions.
COMMISSIONER HOLT: Any questions from the Commission?
COMMISSIONER HOLT: As Chairman, I'll look into this. I mean, I'm not as aware obviously as maybe others may be. So Jim, I will ‑‑
MR. HAIRE: Yes, there's — and let me say this. There's — if you talk to someone with the Commission, with the Department, there's arguments both ways. I just want to say, I have a ton of documentation on everything that's been said here. This is not some "I hate alcohol" deal. This is hard stuff. If you don't like what you see, I hope you get involved in it.
COMMISSIONER HOLT: Fair enough.
MR. HAIRE: Thanks.
THE CHAIR: Thank you, Jim.
MR. HAIRE: You bet.
COMMISSIONER HOLT: It looks like we have a group of people representing Texas Youth Hunting Program. Devin Hernandez up and then Brandon Hernandez. I don't know if you all want to come together, or separately? Nathan Tinsley after that.
MR. D. HERNANDEZ: Hi, my name is Devin Hernandez, I was able to go on the Youth Hunt last year and I had a great time.
COMMISSIONER HOLT: Would you speak kind of right into the ‑‑
MR. D. HERNANDEZ: Yes, sir.
COMMISSIONER HOLT: — a little better.
MR. D. HERNANDEZ: I got to hunt on the Ottmer's Ranch and I got my first deer. We learned how to clean the deer, and we also learned how to tell the age of the deer by its teeth. This hunt was a learning experience for me. I wanted to thank the Texas Parks and Wildlife and the Youth Hunting Program for the opportunity to participate in this hunt. I think it is ‑‑ that this is a great program, and I hope it continues to give other kids like me a chance to hunt and experience the outdoors. Thank you.
COMMISSIONER HOLT: Wonderful, thank you.
COMMISSIONER HOLT: Yes, thank you very much. It's too bad our former Chairman Joe Fitzsimons isn't here, and also another ‑‑ Commissioner, Donato Ramos. They were
two that were very much focused on youth hunting, and of course it's something that the Department's focused on, and I can assure you this Commission's focused on.
MR. B. HERNANDEZ: Yes, sir.
COMMISSIONER HOLT: Yes, Brandon.
MR. B. HERNANDEZ: My name's Brandon. This past year I got to do the Texas Youth Hunt. And you know, I really enjoyed it. I got to spend time with my father and mother and my little brother, and we got to go through the Ottmer's Ranch, and I got two deer this year, through their program.
Like my little brother was saying, they got to teach the kids how to clean the deer, how the — how to tell aging, what was legal, what wasn't legal, proper hunting tips, all of that good stuff. And I think it's really cool that Texas Parks and Wildlife and the Youth Association does things like this, because it keeps families close, and also it teaches kids good habits towards parks and wildlife, and I just ‑‑ I'm here today to say, thank you all. So ‑‑
COMMISSIONER HOLT: Well, thank you. Any questions for Brandon?
COMMISSIONER HOLT: Great, Brandon. Thank you very much. Thank you for bringing up the family.
COMMISSIONER HOLT: And Nathan Tinsley.
MR. TINSLEY: Good afternoon. My name is Nathan Tinsley and I'm 13 years old. And I am from the Houston area where I live with my Mom who's a single parent. I got involved two and a half years ago when I was asked if I wanted to go on a deer hunt. That particular time I knew nothing about the outdoors or hunting. The word "hunting" was not even in my vocabulary.
I was invited to the Wade Watkins Ranch by Houston Area Huntmaster, Mr. John Miller. My first trip, I harvested a deer. That was the first shot I ever made, and I was real excited to make that shot.
COMMISSIONER HOLT: Yes.
MR. TINSLEY: The landowner, Mr. Wade Watkins was in the blind with me when I hit the deer. Still can't believe I hit the shot.
MR. TINSLEY: The whole weekend was a new experience, was a whole new experience for me. I learned how to clean a deer and what to do with it afterwards, because I really liked the deer sausage my Grandma made for breakfast.
Since that experience I've been on another deer hunt, a waterfowl hunt and a dove hunt. Then, two months ago, Mr. C.G., he took us to a dove lease ranch in New Mexico, to help restore wildlife in its natural habitat.
I would like to thank all of the landowners who gave us, the youth, a dream. A special thanks to TWA and TYHB, and the huntmasters and the volunteers. You have made an impact in my life, an uneducated youth from the concrete streets of Houston.
And a special thanks to Mr. Bob Cook, who started these hunts, and I hope you have a happy retirement. Thank you.
COMMISSIONER HOLT: Thank you.
COMMISSIONER HOLT: Sarah Coffey? And after Sarah it looks like Colin ‑‑ Graff.
MS. COFFEY: Good afternoon. My name is Sarah Coffey and I am here representing the Texas Brigades today. This summer I attended the South Texas Buckskin Brigade. I've been involved with the program since last summer, when I attended the South Texas Bobwhite Brigade.
And I can tell you this, that it's an amazing program, and I've never been involved in anything like it before. When I first went to my first camp, last summer, I had no idea what to expect. I thought it was going to be like any other camp I'd ever attended, I go there, have a fun week, and then I'd return home and go on with my normal life. Boy, was I wrong.
This program has completely changed my life. Throughout the camp we learned not only about wildlife management and conservation practices, but we also were constantly gaining leadership skills. I don't come from a hunting background, so it's completely unfamiliar with me. Of course I enjoyed the outdoors and wildlife. But the Texas Brigades completely opened my eyes to a new world, and I was constantly gaining knowledge and information the entire week.
But in addition to this, the Texas Brigades has given me two very important aspects: passion and inspiration. They're not something that I can learn in any books, or see on any "Animal Planet" TV shows. For inspiration, all of the instructors at the Texas Brigades have helped me to go on a new career path, and I'm currently trying to pursue a career in soil and crop sciences when I graduate from high school this next year.
As for passion, the Texas Brigades is something I hold very dear to my heart. I'm not a native Texan; I was born and raised in Tennessee and I lived there for 16 years. When I moved here, it wasn't an easy change. Living in a place for that long, you kind of get attached to it.
But after going to the Texas Brigades, my life was completely changed, and I realized that the move here was worthwhile. If my parents told me today that we were going to move back to Tennessee, that I could go back to my old school, hang out with my old friends, I don't think I could leave because the Texas Brigades has given me something here that I haven't found anywhere else.
I'd personally like to thank Texas Parks and Wildlife for their support of this program, and for providing some amazing instructors throughout the camp. Two of these I'd like to mention is Ashton Hutchins, and Jimmy Rutledge. They have completely helped change my life, and I truly appreciate what they've done for me and youth everywhere over Texas. So thank you very much.
COMMISSIONER HOLT: Thank you very much, Sarah.
Any questions for Sarah?
COMMISSIONER HOLT: We're going to have to sign you up. You're well spoken. Well, everybody is. I'm impressed.
COMMISSIONER HOLT: And I'm glad you're in Texas; don't go back to Tennessee. Okay?
COMMISSIONER HOLT: Thank you.
MR. GRAFF: How are you all today? I'm Colin Graff, and I went to the South Texas Bobwhite Brigade, and I have to thank Sarah Coffey as one of my great assistant covey leaders, and Chancy Lewis [phonetic], another — he was my covey leader.
They taught me there a lot about importance of habitat, and habitat conservation. It is very important to have a good habitat for your quail, and it's very important because you wouldn't want to go to a job somewhere where there was not any homes to live because you can't have a place to live.
So they taught us how to improve habitat and all the things that were needed in habitat such as your grasses and your forms and your woody plants, their protection and their nesting cover, and things such as that.
My camp experience was great; I enjoyed it. I had some great jolly instructors, and Sarah Coffey and Chancy Lewis were also very nice and very helpful; they were very good. Had great food, and of course the peach cobbler was the best. We had a lot of fun with ‑‑ it, that was really good. And I have to thank Mr. Gray for that, very good cook. And it was a great experience, had a lot of fun, and I want to thank you for your support of Brigades. And I can't wait to go back next year as an assistant covey leader. Thanks a bunch.
COMMISSIONER HOLT: Wonderful. Thank you.
Any questions for Colin?
COMMISSIONER HOLT: That's kind of the last of the youth group. Thank you, sir. I appreciate that ‑‑
MR. GRAFF: You're welcome.
COMMISSIONER HOLT: — and enjoy next year, and try to get some of your buddies to go with you ‑‑
MR. GRAFF: I will.
COMMISSIONER HOLT: — because the more people we can get involved, the better.
MR. GRAFF: All right. Thank you, sir.
COMMISSIONER HOLT: Thank you. Thank you very much. Thank you to all of the group, the youth group and TWA and everybody else involved in this, because this is one of our goals, of course, is to get youth involved, and then ‑‑ we'll recruit them, and get them to Texas Parks and Wildlife. Then we'll be in good shape for the future.
With that, we have a new group coming up, I think I'm pronouncing this, Walter Schelle — and then Chris Ramsey after that. And then Bill Pustejovsky. Okay.
MR. SCHELLE: Distinguished ladies and gentlemen. My name is Walter Schelle, and I'm a concerned fisherman. I'm concerned about the pressure being put on our inland bays in Matagorda County and even the whole Texas Gulf Coast. And I hope you will help me do something about it.
After changes in the fishing regulations for redfish, they are doing great. The flounder population is also declined because of the programs instituted by the Texas Parks and Wildlife.
Let us now take a further step now to protect our speckled trout population. The decline over the last five to 10 years I've seen numbers of speckled trout decline at the cleaning tables. I know that you all's surveys do not show this, but I see them from eye contact, that you don't bring in limits of trout like you used to.
Especially on our bays, like in East and West Matagorda Bay, especially East Matagorda Bay which is landlocked. I figure the reason for this decline, the population of fishermen in Texas is growing in leaps and bounds. Yes, this is good for our economy for the short term. But for the same reason it is — will hurt the speckled trout population in the long term.
By itself, the increase in the number of Texas fishermen in the future will put more and more pressure on our inland bays unless we make changes in fishing regulations now to prevent it. Experts say that the population in Texas may double in the next 10 years. This could double the number of fishermen crowding our bays.
Okay, the use of bait. There are mainly three types of bait that are used: artificial, live shrimp and live croaker. Artificial baits and live shrimp have been used almost exclusively until a few years ago, fishermen who used croaker as baits. However, they are relatively new to Matagorda Bay systems, especially East Matagorda Bay.
You can catch speckled trout with croaker when you cannot catch them with anything else. This is because, my belief, croaker make a croaking sound which attracts a trout, and make them attack aggressively.
More egg-producing trout are being caught because of the croaker fishermen, and the number of fishermen is increasing by leaps and bounds. Our bay systems cannot take this kind of pressure.
I would like to see new regulations implemented on our trout population from dwindling; of course, the Texas Parks and Wildlife makes the decision, make croaker a game fish; put an eight-inch size on croaker being sold as bait; do not allow croaker fishing in the months that most trout are spawned, July ‑‑ I mean, June, July and August. Increase the size limit on trout to 16 inches. Reduce bag limits, if necessary, and catch and release of big trout. My summary is the bay systems including our Matagorda System will be put under extreme pressure because I have brought to you today. East Bay will be affected by most of this, is only three and a half miles by 16 wide and only has one main inlet. And the water exchange there is very slow.
The Texas Parks and Wildlife, I think, need to take studies on croaker fishing to see what effects that are having. I mean, we see this, that there is decline in the amount of fish being brought in. And I'm not looking at today; I'm looking at years down the road for the main effect, what we'll have if something is not done now, because Lower Laguna Madre, they have — you all have implemented a five-fish limit.
And I don't want to see that happen in our area, so maybe if something can be done now, before this actually, you know, gets bad enough to do this. Thank you for your time.
COMMISSIONER HOLT: Thank you. Thank you very much. Any questions or comments, excuse me. I didn't —
COMMISSIONER HOLT: — okay.
Chris Ramsey, up next — excuse me, Chris Ramsey and up next is Bill Pustejovsky.
MR. RAMSEY: Chairman, new Commissioners, Commissioners, thank you all. I'm not going to reiterate everything that Mr. Schelle said, but I'm here in reference to East Matagorda Bay, and a little bit of background for those of you who don't know, it's one of our smallest bay systems. It's virtually landlocked, and we all know about the population these days. Drive anywhere and look at all of the "for sale" signs.
Well, I'm not here — I have no vested monetary interest in this bay. I'm just very passionate about Texas and its resources, and I'm here to prompt Texas Parks and Wildlife, who I'm currently very satisfied with, to be proactive in preserving this fishing, for ‑‑ even for some of these younger people who spoke so well earlier.
Croaker are devastating to big trout. For those of you who don't know, trout possess no natural defense against them. Unlike a deer where it has eyes and ears, trout eat croaker no matter how close to the boat they are, or who's on the end of the line or how skilled you are.
So with the ‑‑ Texas' population increasing at increasing rates, better fishermen, more educated, it only makes sense that we look at this topic, whereas it's bag limits or what we're using to retain these fish with.
In closing, there was a time when we could shoot ducks on a pond before they got in the air, and you used to be able to spotlight deer. And it's found to be unsportsmanlike, and this is a game fish; it's a sport. And I want it to be here for my friends' children, mine and all of us for years to come because I love it.
Once again I thank you all for all the vast and rewarding opportunities Texas Parks and Wildlife have provided for me and my family. Thank you all.
COMMISSIONER HOLT: Wonderful. Thank you, Chris. Any questions?
COMMISSIONER HOLT: Okay.
MR. PUSTEJOVSKY: Thank you ‑‑
COMMISSIONER HOLT: Excuse me, next up is ‑‑ will be Parc Smith, after Bill.
MR. PUSTEJOVSKY: Thanks. Bill Pustejovsky, and I am a fishing guide in Matagorda, Texas. I've been fishing there all my life, from knee high to a grasshopper. I've seen in the past couple years a decline in our fisheries, especially in East Matagorda Bay.
It's gotten real bad this year. We had a few young croaker guides come in. They caught a lot of big trout, threw them on the fish-cleaning tables, put it all over the Internet for the whole State of Texas to come down and throw croaker in little East Matagorda Bay.
Well, it's not going to take long it's going to end up like Port Mansfield if something's not done. Now, I have talked to the Chamber of Commerce in Matagorda last week. I'm going to talk to all of the Commissioners probably next week and the Bay City Chamber of Commerce and we'll be getting back with our people that we have down there, our biologists, and I'll be talking to Mr. McKinney.
Our breeding fish are being taken out, and a lot of them were taken out this year. I don't know what our survey nets are going to say this fall when the biologists do their surveys. But I don't think it's going to be that good. Right now the fishery I think as far as fish population is still okay, but there is a big decline on trout this long.
I don't want East Bay or even West Matagorda Bay to get like Port Mansfield, to where right now you catch trout this long, or trout this long and that's all you have. The breeding fish were taken out and there was one reason and one reason only. That was because of the use of live croaker as bait. They're like throwing a stick of dynamite.
Texas Parks and Wildlife I think have managed our bays extremely well. They don't want to take a step on the croaker issue, is my view at this point. We might have to go to bag limits. I don't know what the answers are; I'm just here today to tell you that there is a problem.
Management, I'm sure most of you all own ranches. Give me three months on your ranches; let me shoot two bucks a day. I'm going to kill every big buck on your property in those three months.
Croaker fishermen do more damage in three months out of the year than I do all year long. I throw strictly artificial lures, period. I just, you know — like I say, I don't know what the answer is. But there is a major problem there; there's something that needs to be done.
Thank you very much.
COMMISSIONER HOLT: Thank you very much.
COMMISSIONER HOLT: Wonderful, okay. Parc Smith is coming up, and then Jim West after Parc Smith.
MR. SMITH: I'm bringing some folks with me. In case I get jumped, I've got backup —
COMMISSIONER HOLT: There you go. Yes, he has a lot of backup.
MR. SMITH: Hello, my name is Parc Smith and I'm the coordinator for American YouthWorks Environmental Corps Program. I'm proud to introduce to you these young people, who are the future leaders of our country.
These AmeriCorps members have signed up for a six-month to two-year term of service. They come from as close as Southeast Austin to as far away as Alaska and Montana, from other Conservation Corps programs similar to ours.
These folks are ages 17 to 27 and they've dedicated six months to two years of their life to give service back to their country. This is in return for a living stipend and an educational award that can be used to attend trade school, to go to college, or to pay off student loans that they may have already acquired.
And I'm here to thank you guys for partnering with American YouthWorks Environmental Corps, what we call the Texas Conservation Corps. Following in the tradition of youth in service started by the Civilian Conservation Corps in the 1930s, our program has partnered with Texas Parks and Wildlife. Through the Recreation Trails program we've done some fee for service contracts with you guys, where our crews have built trails in three state parks this year. Huntsville State Park, where 24 of our members built over 600 feet of raised boardwalk trails. They did stonework for erosion control at bridge abutments under Chris Holmes, the superintendent out there. 600 feet of boardwalk is two football fields long, so a pretty good deck out there in the trails that allows people to get access in the muddy times.
Franklin Mountain State Park and the Wyler Tramway. We had 18 Corps members go there and at the top of the mountain they built an emergency escape route off of the tramway, for times when the tramway breaks down and citizens get stuck up there.
Besides that, they also built a new ridgeline access trail, that gives folks an opportunity to get to the top of that mountain at Franklin Mountain and look over El Paso, Mexico and New Mexico.
Some great park staff out there, Ismael Vela, who worked right beside our crews and did a tremendous job with them, he was with us every step of the way climbing over the steepest sections of trail that we've ever worked, and many people in Texas probably have never worked.
Lake Possum Kingdom Fish Hatchery, River Access Trail. We just completed this project, and you'll see little write-ups on each of these projects in your packets, there. Twenty-four Corps members built a decomposed granite trail, complete with hand-carved stone that we field-gathered out there, to replicate the stonework of the CCC.
We've also worked on an in-kind donation basis where we've come in to — after storm damage was taking place in parks, and we just came in and volunteered, the non-contract stuff, where — Inks Lake State Park had some storm damage, and were keeping visitors out of their park areas, and we removed some trees. Same thing at LBJ State Park, McKinney Falls State Park, we've been working at for years.
We're going to lead a National Public Lands Day out there where we'll lead over 100 volunteers from the private and public sector in a volunteer event to improve the park. And we invite you out to that; there's an invitation in your packet.
So thanks to the forward thinking of Parks Director Walt Dabney and leaders like Tim Hogsett, over at the Recreation Grants Branch, and Andy Goldblum over at the Recreation Trails Grants, we've been able to bring federal AmeriCorps dollars to match with federal trails dollars, in with the state parks money. And by leveraging all of those funds, we're giving these guys here an opportunity to learn about the state parks, to work with your park staff, to explore career ideas in this field of conservation and parks-related work. And you know, these gung-ho folks are just doing tremendous things. They're out there sweating every day; they're in their dirty clothes because they came from a job site this morning where they were moving evasive species.
And we'd just like to plant this seed with you, that in the future you make history by continuing to support youth in conservation, and service in Texas state parks. And we thank you for this opportunity.
COMMISSIONER HOLT: Well, thank you, Parc.
Do any of your crew want to say anything? Because we sure appreciate the work they've done for Texas Parks and Wildlife. I can tell you all those people that visit those parks really do appreciate it. Anybody like to say something?
MR. SMITH: Well, they're building topnotch trails ‑‑
COMMISSIONER HOLT: Oh, I know they are. I can tell they've been working all morning. And we've been sitting here talking; they're working. Okay.
No, thank you very much, and thank each and every one of you for coming into Texas, for those of you who are not from Texas, and helping us, and helping the people that use those parks. So thank you. Thank you all.
MR. SMITH: Appreciate it.
COMMISSIONER HOLT: Jim West is up next, and then Joe Turner after Jim.
MR. WEST: Ladies, gentlemen. I'm inspired by the young people. I'm going to mention something beforehand, before I get started on a couple of subjects.
I went to Kansas back in '87 or '86 and I did a pheasant hunt. And where I went they shut down the whole town. They started their season on a Friday, and even the kids ‑‑ that next morning there was about seven school buses there, at that town. And everybody went out to different directions, and went hunting. And even the kids that weren't on that hunt were a part of that, because they shut the school down. They shut the — they shut everything down.
And that — just, it's ironic to see these young people up here, come up here and speak, and I think it's a great thing. And that just kind of popped in my mind, and I still remember that as it happened just last week, when I went and I witnessed that.
Two things. Duck hunting season: the average duck hunter is in his fifties now. The majority of the hunters in the State of Texas are probably in their thirties. The majority of hunters are deer hunting or dove hunting or quail hunting.
You all have started a duck hunting season the same day as deer hunting season for the last couple of years. The average deer hunter, or the guy that spends the money, he is not going to go duck hunting because you all start those seasons on the same date.
That is really a wrong thing to do. I would recommend either having a three-week split after Thanksgiving, or have a two-split that you've had in the past. It doesn't take a brain scientist to think, if the guy's got his own lease and he's spending $2,000 or $3,000, he's not going to hunt the opening day of duck season. And it really does compete with the duck hunter, or the average hunter who will spend money to go with an outfitter.
I've been an outfitter and a guide all my life. I served on the Sea Trout Committee with Hal Osburn about three years ago, four years ago. And I will have to agree to a point about what Billy and the other guys had talked about. Hal always said in every meeting, "We just want to tweak it a little bit to make a little change."
Well, every bay system is different. Every bay system ‑‑ the trout are not a migrator, and they don't really ‑‑ you have an influx of fish, but they don't pull out of those bays. And maybe he needs a little bit of help there in Matagorda, where in Galveston and down further south, where we have other big open ends where you have a big influx of fish, and those bays are definitely ‑‑ can sustain a lot more pressure.
But the Sea Trout Committee was really — with Hal Osburn, was a great thing. And I believe if there are any changes that maybe the Commission needs to take a look at that and implement where we can talk about that with a group of people instead of just making a change on their own. Thank you very much. Oh, any questions ‑‑
COMMISSIONER HOLT: Thank you, sir. Yes, any questions or comments?
MR. WEST: Okay.
COMMISSIONER HOLT: Okay. Thank you.
Oh, Excuse me, Joe Turner up next.
Joe? And after that, Beth McDonald.
MR. TURNER: Chairman, Commissioners. My name is Joe Turner. I'm the Parks Director for the City of Houston. Approximately one year ago this same time frame, Lake Houston State Park was transferred to the City of Houston, and I'd just like to give you a quick update where we are in that process.
Last year we projected a budget to operate that park at $358,000. This year's budget was approved at $436,000. We also have for this year and for the next two years we have a $100,000 grant from one of our prominent citizens in Houston, who understood the need of operational dollars for us through this process that we're going through.
We currently have a staff there at the park of six full-time people and two ‑‑ part time, and we're moving forward of course with our partnership there, along with Commissioner Ed Rinehart of Montgomery County, who we operate the park with.
We established approximately four months ago a stakeholders' group that will work, helping us to work for the master plan for that park. That stakeholder group is being worked with, with Kathryn Nichols of the National Park Service, Rivers, Trails and Conservation Assistance. She's our facilitator as we move through the process.
This Friday we will be releasing a request for qualifications, for the master plan development for this park. We currently have it out there advertised. What we're really looking for is help to get it to those individuals who develop state parks and national parks. One of the criteria was not only have you designed a state park or a national park or worked in a national park or state park, has it actually been built, there's a lot of designs, but they never get built ‑‑ to help us move through the process.
And this process, we've projected it will be a 10-year project as we move — a 10-year program as we move through the development of this park.
We'd like to thank Texas Parks and Wildlife, you,
your staff; the staff here are our resource, particularly Scott Boruff, Walt Dabney and Tim Hogsett. We couldn't do it without them and the rest of the staff.
The other steps we'll be moving through with the assistance of Texas Parks and Wildlife will be to establish a forest, a vegetation and a wildlife management plan for this park as we go through the master planning process.
The plan is to have most of this ready right after the first of the year so we can review that with Texas Parks and Wildlife. If you're not familiar, there are quite a few restrictions that both parties asked to put into this park, so we maintain the integrity and the nature of this park.
I'd like to tell you, this summer it was an amazing experience for us. We had over 500 kids from our urban park system up there this year on day camps. It was an experience for us; it was definitely an experience for most of them, because they've never had the opportunity to be on nature tours, learning how to cast. Actually, we did a lot of nature games and scavenger hunts. And it's been a great process for us.
The second one I'd like to give you is, I'd like to thank everyone here for the results of the 80th Legislative Session. I think we all did good; we got to keep working. We did good, as my Dad used to say, but we got to keep moving.
And for ‑‑ not only for our state parks but also our local state parks, and then — Bob, I know I'm out. But I have one — but you can click it — I have one presentation here from the Mayor, Mayor Bill White, and, Bob, if you would come here, I'd like to give it to you.
COMMISSIONER HOLT: I'll — let you run, if you give me that.
MR. TURNER: I'll give it to him? And I'm only going to be a couple sentences. You know the story and I'm not going to read it all. But it says, "Whereas, Robert L. Cook has devoted his entire career to the conservation for the betterment of the State since he graduated from Texas A&M, Whoop!, in 1965, and his career with Texas Parks and Wildlife... ," and it goes through all of the programs you did for us, worked so close with us on Lake Houston State Park. This paragraph here are all of the grants that we have done with Texas Parks and Wildlife out of the Houston area, and they are many.
"The City of Houston congratulates and commends Robert L. Cook on this wonderful day and extends its best wishes for a long and happy retirement. If you haven't read this month's Texas Parks and Wildlife, there's a term in there called "Old Codger."
MR. TURNER: "And I want to sit on the porch with the old codger. Therefore, I, Bill White, Mayor of the City of Houston hereby proclaim August 22nd, 2002, as Robert L. Cook Day in the City of Houston, Texas."
MR. COOK: Thank you.
MR. TURNER: Thank you.
COMMISSIONER HOLT: Thank you, Joe. I think that's another great example of Texas Parks and Wildlife working with these urban areas as we try to get more and more kids and youth involved in getting out in nature. So, Joe's done a terrific job over there. Thanks, Joe.
Beth, come on up.
MS. McDONALD: Hi. Good afternoon, my name is Beth McDonald. I am the president of Texans for State Parks. Good afternoon, Mr. Chairman ‑‑
COMMISSIONER HOLT: How are you.
MS. McDONALD: — ladies and gentlemen. Also, thank you Mr. Cook for the invitation to come and speak my mind, which I've been know to do.
MS. McDONALD: Our love and best wishes go with you and your wife, and hope you enjoy your retirement and travels as much as Bill and I have.
I come today representing a few hundred members of Texans for State Parks, as well as other park users everywhere. My message and request to you are the same that I made in the past few years to Commissions chaired by Mr. Bass, Ms. Armstrong and Mr. Fitzsimons. Buy the land.
As I stated in the beginning, the price of land is not going down near urban areas. And urban families will not have access to state parks unless a concentrated effort is made to provide access to them within a reasonable traveling distance from their homes.
Please, place land acquisition high on your priority list now that some funds are available for this purpose. You face the great challenge, not of your making, and we all know that. There are many areas of repair, replacement, enrichment, and public education to challenge your attention and resources.
We cannot fathom the effort this is going to take. Many state park friends groups are standing by, organized, ready and willing to help. You have our support, and our very best good wishes for a great term on the Commission. May we all go forward in concert and harmony to right the many wrongs now facing our park system. Thank you for the opportunity to speak.
COMMISSIONER HOLT: Well, Beth, thank you very much. And thank you for all of the help in this last Legislature. It — I know it's a start, and there's a lot more to be done, but our goal is to get started, keep the momentum and do exactly what you're talking about, especially around the urban areas. No doubt about it.
MS. McDONALD: Yes. And you know we have it do again in two more years.
COMMISSIONER HOLT: Oh, yes. Every two years. That's right.
MS. McDONALD: I'm afraid you'll do it without me. This last one exhausted me.
COMMISSIONER HOLT: Well, I'm sorry because you've been a great help and a wonderful, wonderful supporter, so thank you for everything you've done.
MS. McDONALD: Thank you.
COMMISSIONER HOLT: Is there any questions or comments for Beth?
COMMISSIONER HOLT: All right.
Next up, Will Kirkpatrick. And then after that Charles — either Shofner or Shafner.
MR. SHOFNER: Shofner.
COMMISSIONER HOLT: Shofner. Okay, Will Kirkpatrick first, and then Charles Shofner.
MR. KIRKPATRICK: My name is Will Kirkpatrick. I live on Sam Rayburn, the rest of it's in your letter that she's going to give you.
The last three and a half years involving our new freshwater fish hatchery has been very interesting, during which time I've met with scores of interesting people, accumulated a wealth of information I'll probably never need again. But it's also been a huge disappointment to myself and other freshwater anglers.
During a meeting in regards to this hatchery which was held in Athens, Texas, on August 30th, 2004, we found there was unsound data being used by both Parks and Wildlife Foundation and the Parks and Wildlife Department's personnel in their site selection.
We incorrectly assumed that if the accurate information was provided these faulty readings would be rescinded. It became obvious with an improper press release that Mr. Edwin Cox, Jr., made on October 14th that not only were there serious flaws in the overall hatchery site selection process but in the criteria cited to justify the awarding.
Adhering to Mr. Cook's opening statement, we used only information that's available to the public. Should there be any question about the information that you have got there, our Attorney General can contact U.S. Fish & Wildlife in Arlington, Virginia. We've got the names and the phone numbers.
Another point that we previously stated is that overall cost figures will prove incorrect. In our letter to you dated June 20th, 2007, we provided information that the conveyance piping alone, from Sam Rayburn to the hatchery for the Jasper location, was going to be an additional $720,000 over that of St. Augustine.
Your Attachments 3 and 4 document another loss of approximately $600,000. All of this with the additional major cost previously pointed out to the Foundation, the Department staff and yourselves, breaks the bond of trust we felt like we had with the freshwater anglers in the State of Texas.
Anglers agreed to put up $60 million if the original promise of the best location was adhered to. We know this is not going to be the case now. The following statement covers pages 3 and 4 in your book.
I thank you for the time. It's been three and a half years, and it's been pretty disappointing. But it's been very interesting. Thank you.
COMMISSIONER HOLT: Any questions for Will?
COMMISSIONER HOLT: Thank you, Will.
Okay, next up is Charles Shofner.
MR. SHOFNER: Good afternoon, Mr. Chairman, Commissioners, Board. Mr. Parker, I'd like to say hello to you too, personally, sir. How are you?
I'm Charles Shofner. I'm Jasper County Commissioner. I ‑‑ Commissioner Stark accompanied me today. We came to bring you more or less a progress report on the new fish hatchery, East Texas Fish Hatchery, located in Jasper County.
COMMISSIONER HOLT: Good.
MR. SHOFNER: We've basically got the old — all of the land site preps where all of the ponds would go, we've got them cleaned. The right of ways are all signed. Our contracts are — with the ‑‑ with Temple and the Corps ‑‑ are all in good shape. The State has done their part; we're doing our part. We're in the process right now of doing the right of way; you can almost see the creek now, Mr. Parker, from where we had the ground breaking ceremonies. So we're just moving forward. We came today to make a presentation to you folks, and we appreciate it.
COMMISSIONER HOLT: Thank you very much.
Commissioner Parker anything you have to say?
COMMISSIONER PARKER: Just —
COMMISSIONER HOLT: Go, go, go?
COMMISSIONER PARKER: — yes.
COMMISSIONER HOLT: Thank you very much for taking the time and effort to come down, and thank you for all your support.
MR. SHOFNER: Yes, sir.
COMMISSIONER HOLT: And I think some dollars now have been allotted, coming out of the 80th Legislature.
MR. SHOFNER: Yes, sir. They have ‑‑
COMMISSIONER HOLT: And we want to get some ground breaking going, actually start building the buildings.
MR. SHOFNER: Yes sir.
COMMISSIONER HOLT: So that's our goal.
MR. SHOFNER: Good, good.
COMMISSIONER HOLT: Great. Thank you very much.
MR. SHOFNER: Yes, sir. Thank you.
COMMISSIONER HOLT: Next up, Thomas Hall — excuse me, Thomas Hall and after that Steve Holzheauser. I think I'm pronouncing that right.
COMMISSIONER HOLT: Thomas Hall?
COMMISSIONER HOLT: Steve Holzheauser? Or — I think I'm pronouncing it ‑‑ Steve? Yes.
MR. HOLZHEAUSER: Good afternoon, Mr. Chairman, members. My name is Steve Holzheauser. As a point of introduction, I had the privilege from the mid-'80s to the late '90s to serve in the Texas House of Representatives, representing the mid-coastal area which is the topic that I want to talk to you about.
One of the counties that I had was Calhoun County. My parents started out visiting that area for sport fishing back in the mid-'60s. I had the benefit of that experience, and we've had some land there that we've had a house on from that time to the present.
When I first started going there, the access to the waterways was unlimited. You could go to any point that you wanted to where you were — had access to the water; put your boat in; there was plenty of spaces for you to park, and you had very little traffic in that area.
Now, the public use of that area has gone up so much that if you go down there on any Friday, Saturday or Sunday, and you get to a public boat ramp that's owned by Texas Parks and Wildlife, or they're involved in it in some way, you are not going to find a place to park in Port O'Connor, Texas.
After the small parking area that is there has filled up, people start parking on the public roadway which causes a very congested and a very dangerous situation.
So I thought, well, I need to find out if I can help find some way to increase the public's access to this public use of this — the water. So I started checking with the people at Parks and Wildlife, and basically what I found out was that very little is known about the public boat ramps that the State operates.
Originally Texas Department of Transportation built those facilities. But in the mid-'70s, whenever Parks and Wildlife got the registration fees, of course the responsibility for those docks went to Parks and Wildlife.
When I started asking about, are these ‑‑ some kind of a categorization of where they are; who uses them; how much use is there; who maintains them; what is the projection for future use? Are you going to build more docks? Who's doing the maintenance?
And the answer was that there isn't anybody in Parks and Wildlife that has that responsibility. You have some people that actually look for grants, and you've matched some monies with some local entities like cities and counties. But when you go from Galveston all the way down to Corpus Christi, besides Freeport, that whole area is pretty rural. You're going to be dealing with county commissioners mainly, and in some areas where you have funding coming from the State, those county commissioners are able to do some things that will provide access for the public.
But for the most part, they're going to be dependent upon what Parks and Wildlife can do. And my suggestion is that you try to find some way to organize the use of your Parks and Wildlife assets and the federal assets that are available for you all in order to maintain these facilities.
There are some people that live on the Intracoastal Waterway or have access to the water itself, but the vast majority of the people on the Coast don't. I figured up about $35 million coming from boat registrations, titles, motor fuels taxes, and things like that. Of course, a lot of that is going to be used inland.
But a lot of it is for the Coast — and now my time is run out. I'd just say tomorrow, whenever you have the six proposals that are brought to you, and asking you to help fund, you're going to be able to fund one of those, that comes from the cities and the counties.
And that's what the federal monies that you all are spending are able to accomplish at this time. So if you have any questions I'd be glad to try to entertain them.
COMMISSIONER HOLT: Thank you, Steve. Any questions for Steve?
COMMISSIONER HOLT: I wrote myself a couple of things. Thank you. Thank you for taking the time.
MR. HOLZHEAUSER: Thank you.
COMMISSIONER HOLT: Next up, Judy — excuse me. Judi Ronkartz. Am I pronouncing that right? Okay ‑‑ and after that it will be Janice Bezanson, I think I'm pronouncing.
MS. RONKARTZ: Thank you very much for the opportunity to speak here today. My name is Judi Ronkartz. I have been a resident of Texas for 27 years, and an outdoor enthusiast. I am also the current president of the Austin Ridge Riders Mountain Bike Club, and represent the mountain-biking community.
Our all-volunteer club promotes safe and responsible mountain biking in and around the Austin area. We are active in building and maintaining trails, and we also partner with land managers throughout the community, both county, city and state.
We also annually partner with Texas Parks and Wildlife to do the Mountain Biking Exhibit, which ‑‑ we lead about 800 kids along the trails of McKinney Falls State Park. And we believe that Texas Parks and Wildlife has an opportunity to put Texas on the map as a mountain-biking destination similar to Colorado or Arkansas.
In general, the Texas Parks trail system is great for beginners, but of the 54 mountain bike trails listed on the Parks and Wildlife website, only about 10 of those are rated for experienced users and greater than six miles.
We would like Texas Parks and Wildlife to consider increasing access for mountain bikes in state parks in general, increasing the number of mountain bike trails, increasing the mileage on existing trails in parks with less than 10 miles currently; and add more trails for experienced riders at Experience Levels 3 and 4.
And we have some very fine examples in Texas. Some of those that come to mind are Government Canyon near San Antonio, San Angelo State Park, Tyler State Park, and Palo Duro Canyon.
We would also like to recommend continued partnership with local mountain bike clubs and organizations such as the Austin Ridge Riders, DORVA in Dallas, and Greater Houston Area Mountain Bike Club, as well as STORM in San Antonio, to help evaluate, build and design these trails.
For the local Austin area we have some specific recommendations due to the increasing population in the area. Some of the city trails are really becoming very crowded, and ‑‑ I'm almost out of time, so we're specifically recommending some expansion and development of Bastrop and Buescher, Pedernales Falls, and McKinney Falls. And near the Austin area, Inks Lake, Lost Maples and Garner State Park. Thank you very much for your time.
COMMISSIONER HOLT: All right. Thank you very much. Any questions or comments?
COMMISSIONER MONTGOMERY: Quick comment. We had a presentation this morning on building franchises in recreational businesses. I just wondered if, Scott, the appropriate person is going to take on the Viking project. We'll make sure to meet and tell them what we're up to, and get their help. We need your help. Thanks.
COMMISSIONER HOLT: Good point.
Janice Bezanson, am I pronouncing that right?
MS. BEZANSON: You're coming real close —
COMMISSIONER HOLT: Close, good. Okay.
MS. BEZANSON: Thank you, Mr. Chairman ‑‑
COMMISSIONER HOLT: Sure.
MS. BEZANSON: — members of the Commission. I'm Janice Bezanson. I'm the director of Texas Conservation Alliance, the state affiliate of the National Wildlife Federation.
I'm always excited when it's time for the annual meeting because it gives me a chance to come and tell you how much we appreciate the work that you all are doing and the service you all are giving to the State of Texas.
The big news of course coming out of the Legislature was the state park funding, and without your leadership it wouldn't have happened. We're very, very grateful for that.
We particularly want to thank you for the ‑‑ passing new rules concerning nongame restrictions on the take of nongame back in May. That was a very, very important, rather, a watershed step for Parks and Wildlife. We're hoping you'll take it further. We appreciate it that you're continuing to look at the issue, because we think there should be a complete ban on turtles, on the collecting of turtles, but we really, really appreciate the progress that has been made.
Bob Cook, I've heard him say several times that he thinks the three most important conservation issues that are coming up for Texas are water, water and water.
COMMISSIONER HOLT: Uh-huh.
MS. BEZANSON: And I was delighted to see that you all understand this, and the — I've just been looking at the Parks and Wildlife magazine, where you've made the state of lakes and the situations surrounding water a major, major issue. We appreciate this very much.
There were two points made in the magazine that don't get made often enough. The first one does get quite a bit of lip service, that we're not conserving enough. But the point that isn't made often enough is that there's an awful lot of water developed in reservoirs that's not being used and that we need to be making — and we feel strongly that we need to be using that water first.
I can't stand up here without saying something about Bob Cook, because I hear tell he's leaving us.
MS. BEZANSON: I don't have to tell you all that Bob is one of the most competent managers in public life in Texas. He hires good people, he stands behind his people, and he's an outstanding spokesman for conservation and for wildlife and habitat in the state.
MR. COOK: Thank you very much.
MS. BEZANSON: And I just want to say a public ‑‑ give our public kudos and say that we really appreciate what you've done, and we hate to see you leave. Thank you very much.
COMMISSIONER HOLT: Thank you, Janice.
Any questions or comments for Janice?
COMMISSIONER HOLT: Bob, you don't have any for her?
MR. COOK: I was going to give her more time.
COMMISSIONER HOLT: I'll just call more — that was Janice, our last speaker.
COMMISSIONER HOLT: Okay, because he put a sheet in, but ‑‑ I'm sorry?
MR. COOK: He left.
COMMISSIONER HOLT: He left. Okay. I guess with that I've got to go back to my script.
MR. COOK: I mean, that's it. Well —
COMMISSIONER HOLT: Yes. Bob, see you're leaving on a high note, here. See this? You didn't create a lot of controversy. We appreciate that ‑‑
MR. COOK: I've given up, I ‑‑
COMMISSIONER HOLT: Yes, yes.
Mr. Cook, is there any other business to come before this Commission?
MR. COOK: No, sir.
COMMISSIONER HOLT: Okay. I declare us adjourned. Thank you very much. Thank you, everybody that came today, took time —
(Whereupon, at 3:15 p.m., the meeting was adjourned.)
C E R T I F I C A T E
MEETING OF: Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission
Annual Public Hearing
LOCATION: Austin, Texas
DATE: August 22, 2007
I do hereby certify that the foregoing pages, numbers 1 through 66, inclusive, are the true, accurate, and complete transcript prepared from the verbal recording made by electronic recording by Penny Bynum before the Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission.
On the Record Reporting, Inc.
3307 Northland, Suite 315
Austin, Texas 78731